04:54 GMT26 February 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik), Tommy Yang - US President Donald Trump probably decided to cancel his highly anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after he realized that there is a huge gap between Pyongyang’s bottom line and his expectations, experts told Sputnik.

    The White House released a personal letter from Trump to Kim Jong-un on Thursday, explaining his decision to cancel the summit with the North Korean leader that was due to take place on June 12 in Singapore.

    "We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," Trump said in the letter.

    Pyongyang Overplayed Its Hands

    Long-time North Korea watchers suggested that Trump’s decision came more as a result of understanding the real bottom line of North Korea, as opposed to North Korea’s recent public statements.

    "The main reason [for Trump to cancel the summit] might be because through the working level contacts with North Korea, including opening public statements from Pyongyang, Trump realized that the North Korean side’s bottom line is to not give up its nuclear weapons. This is too far from his expectations and Trump understood that the difference is unbridgeable. Under such conditions, he felt it is not necessary to proceed with the summit," Zhao Tong, a fellow at Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, told Sputnik.

    The expert pointed out that North Korea was forced to show its true bottom line to the United States, as the summit date was approaching.

    North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test facility is shown in this DigitalGlobe satellite image in North Hamgyong Province, North Korea, May 23, 2018
    © REUTERS / Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company
    "North Korea only used abstract language to make some political promises [on denuclearization]. North Korea’s purpose was to convince leaders of South Korea and the United States to hold peace talks with it through friendly gestures. But North Korea never intended to give up its nuclear weapons completely. As the date of the summit [with Trump] approaches, North Korea may have felt it is necessary to send more detailed messages to the United States and explain what its bottom line is. But maybe North Korea overplayed its hands during the process. After Trump realized what North Korea’s bottom line is, he lost interests in the summit. I believe this is also a major mistake on North Korea’s side. Maybe Pyongyang did not expect such extreme consequences," he said.

    Despite the harsher views against the United States expressed through official North Korean press in recent days, the expert explained that Pyongyang still showed restraint in those statements.

    "North Korea has left a lot of room. It definitely wanted the summit to take place. That is why, they only expressed such views through their vice foreign minister, stressing that he would only make suggestions of such views to the leader of North Korea. It was very obvious that his views do not reflect the thinking or decisions of Kim Jong-un. But even like this, maybe the wording it used was too strong," Zhao said.

    Massive Blow to Moon

    Trump announced his decision shortly after meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who delivered Pyongyang’s message to Washington and convinced the US president to take part in the summit in the first place.

    READ MORE: N Korean FM: Trump-Kim Summit Depends on 'US Behavior'

    Zhao, the Beijing-based scholar, believes the cancellation of the summit will be a huge blow to the South Korean president.

    "I believe South Korean President Moon wanted to persuade Trump to accept a phased denuclearization process, instead of trying to solve all the problems at once, which is unrealistic. I believe when Moon expressed his views with the sincere intention of trying to keep the summit on schedule. He may want to get Trump to take part in the summit with a more pragmatic attitude. But it is possible that it has an adverse effect on Trump and made him realize that it is impossible to get North Korea to denuclearize at once. That is why Trump decided to go back to his maximum pressure tactic. I believe this is a huge blow to the South Korean president, especially given the timing of Trump’s announcement [right after meeting with Moon]. Trump did not show any mercy to Moon," he said.

    Despite Trump’s recent comments hinted that meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping may have led to Kim Jong-un's apparent change in attitude, improved relations between North Korea and the United States still fit China’s long-term interests, the expert argued.

    "China and North Korea have a lot of common interests, especially when it comes to US military presence on the Korean Peninsula. And the Chinese side has always stressed in its public statements that South Korea and the United States needs to address North Korea’s legitimate national security concerns. But in general, I believe China wants the summit to take place because improved political relations between Pyongyang and Washington also fit China’s long-term interests. Encouraging North Korea to make contacts with the outside world is the best way to ease its obsession on national security concerns," he said.

    The expert does not expect strong reactions from North Korea, instead, Pyongyang could continue its current diplomatic offensive by improving relations with other countries.

    READ MORE: N Korean Nuclear Test Site May Be Closed on Thursday — Official

    "I think if North Korea is very smart, it would continue its diplomatic offensive by improving relations with other nations. They can try to prove to the international community that even without the United States, just like the Iran nuclear deal, they could still make deals with other nations. They can rely on China, Russia or South Korea to continue developing its economy. I believe it is more likely for North Korea to show restraint. It may still ramp up its harsh rhetoric against the United States. But in terms of real actions, if they are smart, they would continue to maintain friendly communications with the international community," he said.

    Rescheduled Summit

    US experts argued that Trump’s announcement to cancel the summit with Kim Jong-un could still be part of the ongoing bargaining between the two sides.

    "I see this as both sides posturing, like two wrestlers trash-talking before the match begins. Kim’s released three prisoners, and demolished part of a nuclear test site, though as yet without independent verification so we do not know how complete the demolition was. Trump’s released a commemorative medal," June Teufel Dreyer, a professor at Department of Political Science at the University of Miami, told Sputnik.

    The expert believes the summit may take place, just perhaps not on the original date, when the alleged "anger" on both sides has cooled a bit and they can start feeling each other’s positions out again.

    The views and opinions expressed by the expert speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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